Dawei is a sleepy tropical town with a long history of trade – and an increasing importance as a port. The town features some interesting architecture, with many old wooden, thatch-roofed bungalows and some colonial brick and stucco mansions. The busy Si Pin Tharyar and Minagalar markets can be found opposite each other in the centre of town.
The Shwe Taung Zar Pagoda is the main religious site in Dawei, and is set in a charming little complex. The short walk from the centre of Dawei is also a pleasant one, following streets lined with colonial era-buildings. Another important religious site near Dawei is the huge reclining Buddha (74 m long, 21 m high), located 30 minutes drive from the centre of town.
Near to Dawei is Maungmagan beach, with its beautiful setting of hills rising straight up from the shoreline. A host of simple restaurants serving great seafood can be found here. A half hour walk down the beach will take you to a lovely fishing village with small boats nestled in its harbour, and some picture-perfect beer stations where you can relax and take in the views and sea breeze. If you want to explore further south still, the sand becomes a more pristine shade of white, and the beach is cleaner and emptier.
Maungmagan is quite unlike the more tourist-focused beaches you will find further north in Myanmar. Here, virtually everyone is local and bathing practices are somewhat different – you may find the majority of people wading in their jeans and shirts, particularly on public holidays!
But foreigners in their swimwear are not frowned upon, although they may get some friendly attention. One unfortunate side-effect of the lack of tourism development is that refuse is not always cleared; this is not unsafe, but can sometimes be a little unsightly.
A tuk tuk to Maungmagan beach will take around 45 minutes from central Dawei and cost K10,000. Motorbikes can also be hired in Dawei and at Maungmagan (also around K10,000), allowing you to explore the area – including the peninsula to the south leading to Dawei Point, which has many beautiful, untouched beaches on its western shore.
There is currently only one hotel for foreigners at Maungmagan beach, the Coconut Guesthouse and Restaurant, located 700 metres behind the beach. Dawei has a number of hotel options.
To find out more about the challenges of travelling over land to the south of Myanmar, read our travel blog, ‘A trip down south’.
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Thursday 31 July